Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of the brutal, lengthy siege of Jerusalem described in the Second Book of Kings in the Bible.
The Bible says, ‘So the city was besieged unto the 11th year of King Zedekiah. On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was sore in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land. Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between the two walls....’
Now University of North Carolina at Charlotte archaeologists digging in Jerusalem have found evidence of the Babylonian conquest of the city from 587/586 BCE.
The researchers found a deposit including layers of ash, arrowheads dating from the period, as well as Iron Age potsherds, lamps and a gold and silver tassel or earring.
The researchers believe that the find can be dated to the specific event of the Babylonian conquest because of the unique mix of artefacts - pottery and lamps, burnt wood and ashes, and a number of Scythian-type bronze and iron arrowheads which are typical of that period.
Shimon Gibson, UNC Charlotte professor of history, said: ‘We know where the ancient fortification line ran, so we know we are within the city.
‘We know that this is not some dumping area, but the south-western neighbourhood of the Iron Age city - during the 8th century BCE the urban area extended from the "City of David" area to the south-east and as far as the Western Hill where we are digging."
Gibson said the ash offers another clue.
He added: ‘For archaeologists, an ashen layer can mean a number of different things. It could be ashy deposits removed from ovens; or it could be localised burning of garbage.
‘However, in this case, the combination of an ashy layer full of artefacts, mixed with arrowheads, and a very special ornament indicates some kind of devastation and destruction. Nobody abandons golden jewellery and nobody has arrowheads in their domestic refuse.
‘The arrowheads are known as “Scythian arrowheads” and have been found at other archaeological conflict sites from the 7th and 6th centuries BCE. They are known at sites outside of Israel as well. They were fairly commonplace in this period and are known to be used by the Babylonian warriors.
‘Together, this evidence points to the historical conquest of the city by Babylon because the only major destruction we have in Jerusalem for this period is the conquest of 587/586 BCE.
‘I like to think that we are excavating inside one of the “Great Man's houses” mentioned in the second book of Kings 25:9.
‘This spot would have been at an ideal location, situated as it is close to the western summit of the city with a good view overlooking Solomon's Temple and Mount Moriah to the north-east. We have high expectations of finding much more of the Iron Age city in future seasons of work.’
Note: This headline was updated on 13 August